An elegant meditation on the passage of time and its discontents.

THE SHAPE OF BONES

Young Brazilian novelist and translator Galera (Blood-Drenched Beard, 2015) returns with a slender tale of yearning and memory.

The difference between men and boys, the old witticism has it, is the price of their toys. As our story opens, a 10-year-old boy goes tearing around his Brazilian city on a much-hacked bicycle, a self-designated “elite urban cyclist” who rockets across the landscape while avoiding cars and impediments such as “an unfinished cement wall whose surface looks as though bits of human skin and flesh would adhere to it nicely.” The decades pass, and now our boy—who has made good in life while avoiding trouble as assiduously as he did that wall—has been goaded into one great adventure, scaling an unclimbed Andean peak in the company of a childhood friend. The challenge steers him into a trip down Memory Lane, revisiting kids bearing names such as Walrus, Mononucleosis, and Chrome Black. Walrus, for one, now has a dignified name, a fat wallet, and an impossibly beautiful wife, but others haven’t made out so well—and one didn’t make it out of childhood at all, in a scarring episode that puts a dark edge on any pleasant nostalgia. Galera guides his story skillfully into and out of past and present, capturing the geeky pleasures of what is now ancient technology (“It’s a 386 DX. With thirty-three megahertz and four megabytes of RAM memory”) and the touching vulnerability of young people who think they’re immortal, as opposed to adults who are afraid of their own shadows. The storyline as such is a little thin, but Galera’s larger theme would seem to be how we reckon with the things we’ve done and seen, how we negotiate the roads not taken and deal with our mountains of regrets (our protagonist having just “walked out on an atmosphere of marital acrimony that could have been resolved quickly with a little compassion and a few well-chosen words”).

An elegant meditation on the passage of time and its discontents.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59420-548-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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